Chuck Denney, Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
Tennessee hasn’t experienced the extreme drought seen in other parts of the nation, but we’ve had our dry periods this summer. When this video was shot, this Wilson County hay field had gone a month without rain. Just a few miles away, Bill Trice was forced to sell half his cattle herd, some thirty head. He was already feeding hay that he needed to keep for winter.
Bill Trice (Wilson County Producer)
“We really hadn’t had any rain, Chuck, since the first of April. It just got to be where there wasn’t anything for them to eat, you know.”
Mr. Trice’s farm did see about seven inches of rain in mid-summer, but by then much of his pasture was already damaged.
“I’m afraid a lot of the fescue and regular grass is dead. It was just as brown as it could be. It didn’t have a bit of green to it.”
When 2012 ends, many parts of the state will have received about an average amount of rain. But it’s not the total amount that matters in agriculture, but when and how often it falls. If a growing season is dry, that’s really all that really matters to a farmer.
Ty McConnell (Obion County Producer)
“There’s been areas of the county that’s had less than two inches of rainfall since the 31st of March. So you’re not going to produce a crop when you have that low amount of rainfall during the growing season.”
Gov. Bill Haslam (Tennessee)
“I think we’re going to have one of the driest Junes and then one of the wettest Julys in history. That’s not a great combination for the folks who produce our food.”
UT Extension is offering help through informational meetings statewide, like this one recently in Lebanon. Producers asked questions about tapping into water supplies like lakes and creeks, and what can be done to stretch forage supplies for livestock.
Dr. Justin Rhinehart (UT Extension)
“There are several ways this current drought and heat affects us for months and even years down the road. So if it gets bad enough that we have to sell a lot of our cattle, then re-populating the state’s cattle herd in the future can be very expensive.”
Then there’s the obvious impact on row crops. Some crops can withstand a little dry weather, but corn in is really hurt by drought because it needs moisture and cooler nighttime temperatures to pollinate. Ray Sneed grows two thousand acres of corn north of Memphis.
Ray Sneed (Tipton County Producer)
“I guess to answer your question about how it will affect your corn – tremendously, because a lot of this corn got caught in the pollination period.”
That means fewer ears and kernels. But what we likely will see more of in the future is heat and drought. Weather is always the biggest challenge facing farmers, and this year proves it again.
Note: UT Extension has developed a web site with tips on drought management.
You can find it online at https://utextension.tennessee.edu/drought